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July 25, 2011 10:31:29 | in history

Opinion: Machu Picchu – A Failed Historic Management

Opinion: Machu Picchu ����¯�¿�½������¢������¯������¿������½������¯������¿������½ A Failed Historic Management
The Inca city of Machu Picchu as seen by Hiram Bingham in July 1911, exactly a hundred years ago. (Photo: Hiram Bingham)

Mariana Mould de Pease is a zealous advocate of Machu Picchu. She became a furious opposer to the cable car project, planned during the Fujimori regime, to be built as an access to the archaeological site. But Mould also became a public supporter to recover hundreds of artifacts from Yale University unearthed from the Inca city a hundred years ago by Bingham which refused to give them back arguing legal technicalities. Years ago, Mould also revealed historical evidence proving that Hiram Bingham was not the real discoverer of Machu Picchu as he claimed. In the following essay, a propos of the hundred years from Bingham's first visit to Machu Picchu, Mould reminds us of the disinformation that still misleads the ordinary traveler and citizen about the Inca city, and of the Peruvian government's wasted opportunity to demonstrate with historical evidence that Machu Picchu was never really lost to Peruvians.

By Mariana Mould de Pease
Translated and edited by Jorge Riveros-Cayo

The presentation of Machu Picchu to the world in 2011, which coincides with the ending of a five-year political period, has been another wasted opportunity for the Peruvian state to show that the Inca city was never lost within Peru’s territory. It is essential to clarify that Hiram Bingham’s verbal account in October 1911 – from Yale University to the world – that “on July 24 of that year I had been in Machu Picchu, the last place left in the Americas to explore in solitude,” is essential to assume that Peru is a Hispanic-Andean country.

In his subsequent publications, this American explorer and politician modified his version of the events that took place between December 1908 and January 1916. In 1948, Bingham finally declared himself as the discoverer of the Inca city in his book, “Lost City of the Incas: The Story of Machu Picchu and its Builders,” the only one that has been translated into Spanish. In this publication he minimizes the participation of the Peruvian state in the Yale Peruvian Expedition, even when a man in uniform who always was with him has been portrayed in his photographs. Bingham demanded that the man were bilingual – Quechua and Spanish – as we know according to the documents that Yale preserves. The man identified in the photo (see above), member of the Peruvian Army, was sergeant Carrasco.

Opinion: Machu Picchu ������¢���¯���¿���½���¯���¿���½ A Failed Historic Management
Photo of Sergeant Carrasco and the boy Pablo Recharte, Hiram Bingham's real guide to Machu Picchu, posing by the Intihuatana. This image was never published by Bingham in a clumsy attempt to give himself total credit for the "discovery" of Machu Picchu, suggests Mould. "This photo shows the formal participation of Peru's government in Bingham's explorations," argues the historian. (Photo: Hiram Bingham)

In 1948, the recently created National Corporation of Tourism invited Bingham to inaugurate the Zigzag, formally known as the Hiram Bingham Highway. Since then, the Peruvian state has assumed that promoting Bingham’s version of events from 1948, of how a Yale University professor reached this Inca “llacta,” is the best tourist strategy to attract visitors to this World Historic Sanctuary. The negative reaction to Peru’s tourist policy reached its highest peak this year through Agustín Lizarraga’s descendants, who attempted to have his ancestor recognized as the real discoverer of Machu Picchu, because he wrote his name on a wall of this Inca “llacta” on July 14 of 1902.

Machu Picchu was built for the ancients rulers of the Tawantinsuyo over pre-Incan foundations in the heart of the Vilcabamba range – which means “imminent plain” in Quechua – to consolidate its expansion towards the north during the 14th century. After the Spanish conquest of the Andes in 1532, the viceroy Francisco de Toledo decided to wipe out the center of resistance capturing its leader and last Inca ruler, Túpac Amaru I, who was executed in Cusco’s Main Plaza. This rugged area remained untouched from the Spanish presence which enabled the indigenous population to keep in volunteer isolation. This aspect of Peru’s history and geography has been widely studied since the 19th century although it has not been linked to Machu Picchu and Bingham’s “scientific discovery.”

The acceptance that these archaeological sites have been “lost” within national territory has also encouraged certain descendants of the landowners in the Urubamba Valley – whose properties extended all the way to the Vilcabamba Range – to sue the Peruvian government, in order to get back their property and be paid the interest accrued for decades. In view of this situation, a team of attorneys from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Perú – the Catholic University of Peru – has elaborated a “amicus curiae” (1) to demonstrate that this interpretation of history and of the Peruvian law is a historical and legal aberration.

Personally, I think that this World Historic Sanctuary belongs to Peru since the Capitulation of Ayacucho signed in 1824, in view that through this foundational document all possessions of the Spanish Crown situated within our newly born country became its property. We should be reminded that all property of the pre-Hispanic royalty became part of the Spanish Crown after the conquest too. Hence, to commemorate a hundred years of the first visit to Machu Picchu is – was – an excellent opportunity for a historic, interdisciplinary and multisectoral management between the Nation’s General Archive, the Foreign Ministry, and the National Library.

I will explain myself.

In September 2010 the Ministry of Culture was created by the García administration and Juan Ossio, the minister, appointed the anthropologist Ramón Mujica Pinilla as the director of the National Library. I met Mujica Pinilla to propose an exhibition about Machu Picchu before and after Hiram Bingham, as he announced to the media last March. I made this proposal because since 2006 I founded the Franklin Pease Historic Collection, a nonprofit association that enhanced the book collection and archive of this historian, who was my husband. Mujica called me in April to say they could not use the collection for the exhibition because I was going to be sued.

Opinion: Machu Picchu A Failed Historic Management
Hiram Bingham. (Photo: Herman Tucker)

Nobody sued me. The Comptroller’s Office only requested information about the content and financial status of the Franklin Pease Historic Collection. I responded that the Peruvian state had not given any financial contribution or whatsoever to this association. There was no public money either in the association that could justify an investigation from a government agency.

When a door is close, a window is usually open, says a wise proverb. Starting August 1, 2011, I will request the Comptroller’s Office to execute a cultural audit to the National Library – the associate of the Franklin Pease Historic Collection – so Mujica can explain why is my name included in the Machu Picchu exhibition if I was denied to participate in it?

The National Library has presented an exhibition based on the account of Paolo Greer, a frequent American traveler to Cusco, who had “spent years of his life chasing after possible old mine-workings in Peru,” as Hugh Thomson describes him in his book “The White Rock.” In the exhibit it is claimed that Baltasar La Torre, a Cusqueño explorer, led an expedition on his own initiative to explore the valleys in La Convención, but omits to say that he was a colonel of the Peruvian Army. The expedition he led to the valleys of Paucartambo in 1873 was executed following the orders of President Manuel Pardo, trying to find an easier access from Cusco to the Madre de Dios jungle. Additionally, in the same exhibit, there is the map from 1874 owned by the German engineer, Herman Göhring, that was published in 1877 by the State Print in Lima to complement the report of Baltasar La Torre, who was killed during the expedition.

This disinformation distorts the participation of the non-specialized visitor in the public debate about Machu Picchu. As a result of this tight and hurried conclusion, the veracity about Machu Picchu and its cultural environment in Peru’s long historical continuity still challenges to keep open a bilateral dialogue between foreigners and locals.

Editor's note: (1) An "amicus curiae" is someone, not a party to a case, who volunteers to offer information to assist a court in deciding a matter before it.

Mariana Mould de Pease is a Peruvian historian specialized in cultural preservation. She is the author of "Machu Picchu and the Code of Ethics of American Archaeology," published in 2003.



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# Peru-o-phile says :
25 July, 2011 [ 07:20 ]
Is there nothing more impervious than Peruvian pride?

So much Peruvian energy spent on superficially wounded egos.

In 1910 could you find anyone in Lima or Cuzco who knew of the existance, nevertheless the importance of Macchu Picchu?

110 years after the fact, no one in the U.S. could care about Hiram Bingham and it's likely less than 1% even know who he was.

I am not wholly un-empathetic. Imagine if a Peruvian came to the United States in 1911 and reported to stunned audiences in Washington D.C., the existance of the Grand Canyon.

It happened. No one, except Peruvians, care. Get over it.

BTW...what's the opposition to a cable car? wouldnt that be more in keeping with the natural and historical character of Macchu Picchu than a hundred rickety buses zig-zagging up and down every day?
# Gary Bromley says :
25 July, 2011 [ 08:37 ]
Excellent article, most informative.  Thank you Mariana.
# Daniel Buck says :
27 July, 2011 [ 10:45 ]
When all is said and done, it remains the case that Hiram Bingham III found, cleared, photographed, studied, and made known to the outside world Machu Picchu. Yes, the site was mentioned a few times over the centuries in colonial and republican-era documents, locals farmed there, a few explorers had heard of it, Lizarraga scribbled his name there, etc., but no one paid any attention to Machu Picchu.  No one went there and exclaimed, "Holy Cow! this is incredible!"  No one did anything.

Machu Picchu before Bingham was abandoned, neglected, and forgotten.  A pile of rocks covered in vegetation.  Bingham changed all that.

Give the man his due.

Daniel Buck

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